Antiepileptic drugs reduce efficacy of methotrexate chemotherapy by downregulation of Reduced folate carrier transport activity

Leukemia. 2009 Jun;23(6):1087-97. doi: 10.1038/leu.2009.6. Epub 2009 Feb 12.


Concurrent treatment with methotrexate (MTX) and antiepileptic drugs, such as phenobarbital (PB), reduces the efficacy of MTX chemotherapy in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This can result from defective Reduced folate carrier (Rfc1)-dependent cellular uptake of MTX. Indeed, we have shown that functional Rfc1 activity is significantly reduced by clinically relevant concentrations of the anticonvulsant drugs PB or carbamazepine in an adequate in vitro model. As PB is known to regulate carrier-associated transport by the nuclear receptor constitutive androstane receptor (CAR), we investigated the involvement of the CAR signaling cascade and the mode of PB-induced downregulation of Rfc1 activity. CAR activation by PB or the CAR agonist 1,4-bis[2-(3,5-dichloro- pyridyloxy)]-benzene resulted in translocation of Ca(2+)-dependent protein kinase Calpha (cPKCalpha) to the plasma membrane related to significantly elevated PKC activities. In contrast, subcellular localization of Ca(2+)-independent PKCdelta was only marginally altered. Studies on intracellular distribution of the Rfc1 protein indicated that PB-induced activation of cPKCalpha was associated with carrier internalization from the plasma membrane into the cytosol independent of the Rfc1 phosphorylation status. In conclusion, we identified for the first time the molecular mechanism of this clinically relevant drug resistance in patients with ALL concurrently receiving MTX chemotherapy and antiepileptic drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Constitutive Androstane Receptor
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects*
  • Drug Antagonism
  • Folic Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Methotrexate / pharmacology*
  • Phenobarbital / pharmacology
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism
  • Reduced Folate Carrier Protein
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Constitutive Androstane Receptor
  • Folic Acid Antagonists
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Reduced Folate Carrier Protein
  • Transcription Factors
  • Protein Kinase C
  • Methotrexate
  • Phenobarbital